Inheritance in Australia: family and charitable distributions from personal estates

Christopher Baker, Michael Gilding

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


This article provides unique empirical evidence of post mortem giving in Australia, through a random sample of probate records in Victoria in 2006. The records show that decedents overwhelmingly leave their estates to their immediate family; first spouses, and then children in equal measure. They also show that there is a significant discrepancy between common practice in the transmission of estates and intestacy laws; that about one in five decedents exercise some measure of testamentary freedom; that about one in twenty decedents leave a charitable bequest; that more than two in three charitable bequests are left by decedents without surviving children; and that (unlike in the United States) wealthier decedents leave a smaller proportion of their estates to charity than their less wealthy counterparts. The article provides an empirical foundation for debates around the relationship between charitable giving and social capital, civil society and the role of government in advanced capitalist societies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-289
Number of pages17
JournalAustralian Journal of Social Issues
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Charity
  • Family
  • Giving
  • Inheritance
  • Philanthropy
  • Probate


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